The Challenges of Local System Design for Multinationals: The MaxFli Sales Force Automation System at BAT
Overview (Class Discussion Case)
Large multinational corporations are designed to leverage economic efficiencies in economy of scale and economy of scope across geographic regions. These efficiencies are challenged when local market tastes, business processes, or regulations render a one-size-fits-all solution suboptimal. In contrast, locally-tailored solutions may fail to leverage best practice, cost efficiencies, and consistent management of brands and processes. Business change initiatives often purposefully target changes in local processes, but when these changes are embedded in IT, the technology is often blamed for “not fitting the way we do business.”
The case illustrates these issues by focusing on a custom systems development project – “MaxFli” – for a sales force automation system that is needed in a number of local countries (end markets) of a large multinational company (BAT). It is part of a business change initiative for implementing best practice among a field sales force and gathering decision-making data. The MaxFli project takes a decidedly “decentralized” approach to development; this initiative follows a prior “centralized” project that had been poorly received in the end markets. The case chronicles the decision to build MaxFli in one end market, the challenges with development and vendor partners, and its successful implementation in that market, followed by considerable difficulties of migrating this locally-developed solution to other end markets that face a different set of competitive and geographic realities.
The central question of this case study forces students to consider what factors favor end-market or centralized development in multinationals. Students are also forced to reconcile how the same set of technology and best practices yielded vastly different results in different countries. The lack of obvious answers to these questions provides an instructor with a rich context for a case discussion.
Questions for Discussion
1.What business problem was MaxFli trying to solve? How would you rate its effectiveness at addressing that problem?
2.Assess the specific choices made in launching and building the MaxFli project. Which decisions (if any) proved wise and which ones created challenges for the current project or later?
3.What organizational factors explain the outcomes of the MaxFli project? (Some factors may differ by end market; others may be common across the three end markets.)
4.What lessons can be drawn from the MaxFli experience? Is there a single best approach for developing systems for use across a multinational firm?
Case Study II-3
CRM using Data Warehousing at First American Corporation
The FAC project is an example of a successful data warehousing project that required a new alignment between IT and the business. At the outset of the case, First American Corporation is facing a $60 million loss. This created an obvious need for change in the organization. There had been no significant investments in IT for many years, so the company was in a catch-up mode. At the time of the case study, a CRM strategy was a very innovative solution, and a new marketing executive was hired to help with this turnaround initiative. Several leaders in FAC played important leadership roles to help move the multi-year project forward, including the CEO and executives in marketing and finance.
Although not emphasized in the case writeup, the data warehouse project was initially begun as an internal effort only. However, the IT group did not have the new data warehousing skill sets needed, and an initial (failed) attempt led to the hiring of outside consultants (NCR) to help move the project forward. The project was managed by an internal project manager, but the consultants were heavily relied on and NCR...